Bram Stoker Award-winning author Tim Waggoner’s The Forever House is out today from Flame Tree Press, and at just under 300 pages, it’s perfect for your self-isolation reading.
Set in Rockridge, Ohio, the novel opens as a strange and unnerving family called the Eldreds move onto a sleepy cul de sac into a home marked by tragedy. It’s very clear from the beginning that they are not a normal family. These are creatures out of nightmares that feed on negative emotions and this little street filled with damaged humans is exactly the buffet they’ve been looking for.
Waggoner quickly and succinctly introduces his characters, their various dramas, and their relationships to everyone else in their neighborhood and it becomes quite clear that sitting in their skins, however briefly as readers, is going to be an uncomfortable experience.
Their realities are hyper-real; their failings are stomach-churning, and perhaps most importantly, their isolation is palpable. Their cul de sac is the ultimate dead end, and with very few exceptions, they keep to themselves, secure in the knowledge that while they have their own crosses to bear, at least they aren’t one of the others.
All of this is to say that they have plenty to deal with before the Eldreds move into their world and immediately begin to warp it to their own desires, and Waggoner’s strength in The Forever House is blending the hyper-reality of Rockridge with the darkly fantastic of the predatory newcomers.
There is a lot to unpack in The Forever House, but I can’t talk about most of it here without giving away spoilers. There is one aspect of the novel that I feel like some readers would want to know before digging into the story itself, however–a sort of trigger warning if you will.
One of the residents of this little neighborhood is a pedophile who was sexually abused by his own father. He lives in isolation, basically refusing to the leave the house because he is afraid he won’t be able to fight the vile urges he feels, and his attention is repeatedly drawn to the one child who lives nearby.
Waggoner conveys the character’s story in a way that never glorifies the abuse, but still gives us just enough through flashbacks and his mental wanderings in the present day to make the reader’s skin crawl, especially those who may have experienced this type of abuse in the past.
By and large, The Forever House works on multiple levels. It is a meticulous character study, a well-written social commentary without becoming overtly heavy-handed, and ultimately, a terrifying horror novel filled with creatures out of nightmare that will stay with you long after its astonishingly semi-hopeful yet dread-inducing ending.
The Forever House is out today and available in multiple formats on Amazon.
Also from Flame Tree Press: Check out our review of Catherine Cavendish’s The Garden of Bewitchment.